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Marines hold court of inquiry into Afghanistan civilian shootings

[JURIST] The US Marine Corps on Monday launched a court of inquiry proceeding [Marine Corps News report] to investigate whether charges should be brought in connection with a March 4, 2007 incident [CENTCOM press release] in which 30 US Marines opened fire on civilians alongside a road in Nangahar province, Afghanistan, after a suicide bomber drove a vehicle carrying explosives into their convoy. The court of inquiry, which will begin taking testimony on Tuesday and will recommend whether criminal charges should be brought, is most concerned with the conduct of platoon leader Capt. Vincent J. Noble and Maj. Fred C. Galvin, who commanded the 120-person unit at the time of the incident. A defense attorney told AP that the evidence will show that the Marines followed proper procedure during the incident. This is the first time a court of inquiry proceeding has been held since 1956. AP has more. The Marine Corps Times has additional coverage.

A preliminary US military investigation [JURIST report] found that the Marines began firing at bystanders, including women and elderly men, along a several mile stretch of road as they left the scene. As many as 19 civilians were killed and another 50 injured. The soldiers are members of a Marine Corps Special Forces unit under the command of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) [official website] and were sent to Afghanistan to carry out special reconnaissance, intelligence and commando missions. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) [official website] released a report [PDF text] last year claiming the soldiers violated international humanitarian law [JURIST report] by using indiscriminate and excessive force in its response to the suicide bombing.

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